Buckeyes, Weddings, and Llamas

I know there are many important world events happening right now, with new alarming headlines being written every few minutes, but I think you deserve a five-minute rest from televised anxiety. Which is why I want to talk seriously about Ohio for a second.

Not only is Ohio the birthplace of seven U.S. presidents, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Thomas Edison, but it is also home to the world’s largest pair of drumsticks. The sticks are carved from poplar logs and have a combined weight of 1800 pounds.

Said one Ohio man, “Dang, they’re big.”

I’ve always wanted to visit the Buckeye State, but every time I tell my Ohio friends this, they usually answer with: “Ha ha! Wait, you’re serious?”

I do understand why some Ohioans feel sort of blah about their state. But then, everyone feels like this about their home sometimes.

Take me, for instance. I am a Floridian who lives three miles from the Gulf of Mexico. People are always wanting to crash at my place during, say, spring break. And I’m usually thinking to myself, “Why?”

These friends often unveil their travel plans during nonchalant conversations by saying, “So, how’s that old guest room looking, buddy?”

And even though I don’t particularly enjoy having company in our house, I was raised to be hospitable. So I answer, “Our guest room is always open to you, as long as you aren’t allergic to black mold or rats the size of Fiats.”

The truth is, Florida people are just like Ohio people. Sometimes we can’t see how great our state is. This is exactly why during my teenage years we boys used to LEAVE Florida for spring vacation in search of any U.S. state where we knew someone with a sleeper-sofa.

The farther away the better, just as long as we weren’t in Florida. That’s how it goes when you grow up on the Gulf Coast. During spring break, you want to vacation somewhere non-beachy, even if your entire trip is spent trapped in your buddy Phil’s fraternity-house basement.

So people always act confused when I tell them about the weird places I’ve visited for spring break. My list includes—this is true—Texarkana, Texas; Cullman, Alabama; Joplin, Missouri; Peoria, Illinois; and Detroit.

Still, I’ve never been to Ohio. And this morning, I’m wishing I would have visited. Specifically, I’m wishing that I could have visited Cleveland this past Sunday, when 21-year-old Mendl Weinstock showed up at his sister’s wedding accompanied by a llama dressed in a tuxedo.

That’s right. Mendl brought a llama to a wedding ceremony because of a promise he’d made to his sister long ago. He says that it all started during a road trip, when he and his sister were having a conversation about weddings.

Traditionally, guys do not talk about weddings. In fact, most guys would rather discuss surgical sterilization procedures than matrimony. Plus, at the time, Mendl’s sister was only 17 years old and didn’t have plans to get married within the immediate future. This meant that their discussion was theoretical. To a guy, the only thing worse than wedding-talk, is hypothetical wedding-talk.

But girls LOVE weddings. They begin obsessing about weddings when they are little. We boys would often get trapped in these girly wedding daydreams. This normally occurred when our mothers forced us to invite our cousin Lisa over to play.

Cousin Lisa was totally crazy about weddings. Marriage was all she could think about. If you were to give Lisa some G.I. Joes and a bunch of oatmeal cookies, Lisa would find a way to get them all hitched.

So even though you were wanting to play Cowboys with your pals, Cousin Lisa was always playing “house,” and coaxing all your outlaw friends to give up bank robbery and start thinking seriously about things like adjustable fixed-arm mortgages.

Thus, Mendl and his sister got into a squabble on that fateful trip. And in the heat of the moment, Mendl made a flippant remark and told his sister he wasn’t going to attend her wedding. This really got her peeved and it was downhill from there.

They did, however, eventually reach a truce. Mendl agreed to attend her theoretical wedding, but ONLY if he could bring a theoretical llama as his date.

That was five years ago.

Last Sunday was the day of his sister’s wedding. True to his word, Mendl rented a llama from a local farm for $400. The llama’s name was Shocky. Shocky was well behaved, polite, and probably smelled better than most boys who live in fraternity housing.

Mendl had a custom tuxedo made for Shocky, with a bow tie and everything. Before the ceremony, wedding guests posed for pictures with Shocky, and a good time was had by all.

Said Mendl, with a touch of pride, “My sister was shocked…”

Mendl’s sister has agreed not to seek the death penalty.

I hate that I missed such a special day in Cleveland. And I hate that you did, too. Because you and I could all use a break from the frightening things happening in our world right now. We deserve to think about something good for a change. Like, for example, where I’m going to get a llama to accompany me to my cousin Lisa’s wedding next month. If you know of any available, let me know.

You’d be more than welcome to stay in our guest bedroom.


  1. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - March 16, 2020 6:54 am

    Llama huh? Wonder why not a rhino or a giant sea turtle? Maybe cousin Ed’s neighbor, The old Gypsy woman with the hook arm & glass eye? Talk about a conversation piece.
    I do wish there was a recording of that original conversation where he swore he would have a llama for a date.
    As much as I love Panama City Beach I always avoided it during spring break. I did watch the La Vela thing on MTV once or twice. Few my age will admit to that. I always wondered how many proud fathers got to see their daughter’s MTV debut in the La Vela pool.
    Funny story as always.
    Love Steve

  2. Susan Adams - March 16, 2020 9:14 am

    I’m a Buckeye by birth so googled images of “llama at wedding” to see a picture and look for anyone I might recognize. I found the guy and his sister and the llama in a tux, but do you know how many pictures there are of llamas with the bride and groom at other weddings? I hope they didn’t spit on any guests.

  3. Betty F. - March 16, 2020 12:04 pm

    I have it! In Cleveland- Georgia, that is (near Helen, GA). Look up the website http://www.northgeorgiazoo.com They have all sorts of exotic (for Georgia) animals. If the llama is out for the day when you need it, you might substitute their alpaca or their African Crested porcupine. You and Jamie could stay in our guest room on the second floor. We live on the first floor. We’d keep our “social distance” and we would not micromanage your time. Of course, by the time you need it the self-quarantine should be over. How does that sound?

  4. Linda D. - March 16, 2020 12:13 pm

    Sean, I know you’re just jestin’, but there is actually an alpaca farm in Silverhill, Alabama, near Alex City, called Humming Star Alpacas. Don’t know if they rent out any of their critters for weddings, but I’ve visited them there, and the alpacas sure are cute! Smaller than llamas, but very similar.

  5. Lucretia Jones - March 16, 2020 1:17 pm

    So fun you are, Sean! Thank you!

  6. Tammy S. - March 16, 2020 2:03 pm

    Always a nice break from the chaos of life. Thanks Sean!!

  7. Connie Havard Ryland - March 16, 2020 2:04 pm

    The world needs more of you right now. Thank you for the morning smiles. Love and hugs.

  8. Marilyn - March 16, 2020 4:18 pm

    Your humor and positive outlook are very refreshing! God is in charge, but you can help…

  9. Linda Moon - March 16, 2020 4:28 pm

    This Southern Lady (me) has visited Cleveland, Ohio several times. The first time was soon after my wedding, in which no llamas were in attendance. The Groom was Animal enough for me. If you ever get to Cleveland, Sean, be sure to go to Bay Village…….home of some of our Family Lore….REALLY…quite a story. If you lived north of Florida, I might just take you up on your welcoming invitation. Cool and even cold mountains or Bayside Villages in Ohio are my destinations of choice!!

  10. Kathleen Mathews - March 16, 2020 5:42 pm


    We live in Ohio and you’re always welcome to use our guest bedroom. Ohioans scoff about the place but it’s really not bad. It has four distinct geographical quadrants glued in the middle by Columbus. “Klum-bus” was called “Cow Town” when I moved there from Baltimore, MD in 1973. It’s grown, and grown and grown some more until it now is known nationally as just Columbus – not Columbus, Ohio.

    We’re in the southwest quarter of Ohio near Dayton. It has a little bit of everything – colleges, great shopping, good food options, Wright Patterson Air Force Base with it’s 50K employees and the National Museum of the Air Force, and Yellow Springs. It’s worth a visit to Ohio just to go to “The Springs”. It’s a very progressive town from the ‘70’s. Seriously, they’ve never stopped selling tie-dyed tee shirts or protesting war on Saturdays. They bicker among themselves but also love and take care of each other. The town is walkable and adjacent to a magnificent park system called Glen Helen. They even have a raptor center there where injured birds recover.,,owls, eagles, raptors.

    So, when Ohio reopens for business, give me a holler and come visit. We’ll be happy to show you around.

  11. Edna Barron - March 16, 2020 5:56 pm

    Well mu goodness, every Llama deserves to make it to at least one wedding in its lifetime! I thought this was a wonderful story. Thanks for the giggles. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  12. H J Patterson - March 16, 2020 6:06 pm

    Sorry about the cancellation at the Opelika BOM tonight Sean but based on the hysteria level of the world right now, I get it. Plus, some of your recent blog commenters might show up and banish you for hugging someone and we wouldn’t want that. Please reschedule and swing back through this area when the world regains some balance and backs off the ledge. Look forward to it.

  13. Kare - March 16, 2020 6:37 pm

    Having worked in college football, I’ve lived/worked in 8 different states. But I’m proud to say my hometown is Canton Ohio. Get to Ohio Sean, it’s wonderful!!

  14. Sylvia - March 16, 2020 7:09 pm

    I thought you lived in Alabama??

  15. Ann - March 16, 2020 8:42 pm

    The great escape…if only for a few moments 😂😂❤️

  16. Nancy M - March 17, 2020 5:19 am

    We’ve traveled in Ohio. Through Cincinnati up to Millersburg, Amish Country – very beautiful! Then onto to Lorrain for a Highland Scottish Games event in Oberlin. It was a wonderful trip! We also visited the Rock and Roll Museum and the science museum in Cleveland.

  17. John - March 17, 2020 6:30 pm

    Sean, our only grandaughter called this morning to tell us she and her now husband decided to forego the huge ceremony planned for 2 weeks from now and instead got married in the park in Atlanta yesterday afternoon. We were so pleased to see them be so levelheaded in this time of crisis. The problem was, I had not noticed this was a FaceTime call and I was just stepping into the shower so my first telephone conversation with my new grand son in law was quite exposing!

  18. Mike - March 23, 2020 5:25 pm

    “adjustable fixed ARM mortgage” Sean, please enlist the aid of a good financial advisor as you become more and more successful! 😉

    Love your sense of humor!!

  19. Jeanne - April 20, 2020 12:08 am

    We used to live in Cleveland near the Weinstocks, and Mendel was a friend and classmate of my kids and a frequent guest (in the sense that herds of boys going in and out of the house to get snacks and play and occasionally sleeping over in a pile of sleeping bags like a bunch of puppies are “guests”). He was a nice, funny kid, and while we’ve been amused at the publicity, I can’t say I am surprised he pulled it off!

    BTW, this former Tennessean appreciates your essays and how much you remind me of home.


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